Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (204)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

204. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a special school place for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28574/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

It is the policy of my Department that all children with Special Educational Needs can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network.

The National council for Special Education (NCSE) is an independent statutory body whose functions include planning and co-ordinating the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs in conjunction with schools and the health Service Executive (HSE).  Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available by county on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie.

The NCSE, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas where there is an identified needs.  The NCSE is aware of emerging need from year to year and where special provision is required it is planned and established to meet that needs.

The enrolment of a child in a school is a matter, in the first instance, for the parents of the child and then a matter for the school/ Board of Management having regard to their own enrolment/admissions policy.  The Department and the NCSE has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. The criteria to be applied by schools in such circumstances is a matter for the schools themselves. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to publish it's enrolment policy.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process where a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the Board refuses enrolment to a student. Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to either the relevant Educational Training Board or to the Secretary General of the Department.

Parents/guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement should contact their local Special Education Needs Organiser (SENO) who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child.  Contact details are available on www.ncse.ie.

The NCSE also works in collaboration with the Educational Welfare Services (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency which is the statutory agency that can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child or can offer assistance where a child is out of school. The local service is delivered through the national network of Educational Welfare Officers (EWO). Contact details are available at http://www.tusla.ie/get-in-touch/education-and-welfare/.

Where there is no placement available for a child with Special Educational Needs, the Department will consider applications under the Home Tuition Grant Scheme, where a student can receive up to 20 hours home tuition per week as an interim measure until a placement becomes available. The availability of a school placement is assessed by the NCSE having regard to, although not limited to, the relevant diagnosis and relevant professional report.

Accordingly, the NCSE advises parents, to seek to enrol their child, by applying in writing, to the school/s of their choice as early as possible. Where parents have been unsuccessful in enrolling their child in a school, they should update their local SENO to inform the planning process.

As the matter raised by the Deputy refers to a particular child, I have arranged for the Deputy's question to be forwarded to the National Council for Special Education for their attention and direct reply.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (205)

Brendan Smith

Question:

205. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration will be given to the request of an organisation (details supplied) in Budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28599/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My aim for Budget 2020 is to progressively deliver on the commitments set out in the Programme for Government, the Confidence and Supply Arrangement and my Department's Statement of Strategy and Action Plan, and to meet demographic and demand pressures. 

Over the past number of years, the Government has invested significant additional resources in education and training, which has delivered thousands of extra teaching and Special Needs Assistant posts in our schools, increased investment in higher education, expanded apprenticeships and traineeships, increased capitation in schools, enhanced supports for school leadership and improved the staffing schedule in primary schools. The extra teachers in schools and improved staffing schedule measures have resulted in a continued reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) in schools with the primary PTR improving from 21.0:1 in 1998 to 15.1:1 in 2018 and post primary PTR improving from 15.0:1 to 12.7:1 over the same period.      

In looking at the competing demands for the next Budget, I must have regard to the level of resources which will be available to my Department, in the context of the continuing need for the Government to prudently manage the economy and the public finances and have regard to risks, including those associated with Brexit.   

The economic, fiscal and budgetary context for these decisions have been set out in the 2019 Summer Economic Statement, which was published on 25 June by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform.  

It will be in that context that I will formulate specific budgetary priorities, having regard to the views of the education partners and all concerned stakeholders.

Garda Operations

Questions (206)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

206. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the stage the preparation of a strategic threat risk assessment for An Garda Síochána is at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28338/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for managing An Garda Síochána, and I, as Minister, have no role in the matter.

I have requested the information asked from the Garda Commissioner and I will write directly to the Deputy on receipt of same.

Prison Inspections

Questions (207, 208)

Catherine Martin

Question:

207. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the measures he is taking to address the lack of published inspection reports on closed prisons by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons since 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28406/19]

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Catherine Martin

Question:

208. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there are delays in completion of investigations into deaths in prison custody by the Inspector of Prisons; if there are delays in the publication of reports on such investigations; if so, the number of reports awaiting to be published; and the reason for these delays. [28407/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 208 together.

The independent Office of the Inspector of Prisons was established in statute under the Prisons Act 2007. It has a vitally important role in ensuring effective independent oversight of our prison system. It will be appreciated that the office is independent in the performance of its functions and it is always a matter for the Inspector of the day to decide how the functions should be performed within allocated resources.

The current Inspector of Prisons, Ms. Patricia Gilheaney,  was appointed in May 2018.  Following her appointment, the Inspector contracted consultants to carry out a review of the functions and arrangements of her Office.  The report sets out an optimum new enhanced structure for her Office, its legal powers, resources needed and other related issues. The Inspector has recently submitted a request for resources, based on the recommendations in the  report, and that request is being analysed and considered in the context of the 2020 estimates process. My Department will continue to work constructively with the Inspector on the enhancement of her Office's resources and capacity.

In terms of additional resources this year, funding has been provided by my Department to contract external expertise to enable the office to review cases of deaths in prisons.  A process is also underway to appoint a new office manager. My Department also recently approved the awarding of a contract, following a tender competition, in respect of the development of an Inspection Framework and Strategic Plan for the Office of the Inspector of Prisons.  

Parental Leave

Questions (209)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

209. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of legislation to increase the level of paid parental leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28415/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that as part of Budget 2019, the Government announced the introduction of a new social insurance-based paid parental benefit scheme.  This new scheme will support parents during the first year of the child's life by providing two weeks of paid leave to both parents, and will allow parents more flexibility in achieving and managing a work life balance.

It is envisaged that the scheme will commence in late 2019 and will be available to parents in respect of all children born on or after the date of its implementation.

The conditions of eligibility for the scheme will be provided for in legislation which is currently being developed by my Department, in cooperation with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

I can advise the Deputy that work is well advanced on drafting the legislation, which will be brought to Government for approval shortly.

Garda Strength

Questions (210)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

210. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí stationed in Portarlington Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28418/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for managing An Garda Síochána, including personnel, and I, as Minister, have no role in the matter.

Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

The Garda strength of the Laois/Offaly Division from 2009 to 31 May 2019, as provided by the Commissioner, is available on my Department’s website through the following link. http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and_Station_2009_to_31_May_2019.xlsx/Files/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and_Station_2009_to_31_May_2019.xlsx

For more general information on Garda Facts and Figures please see the link below

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures

Data Protection

Questions (211, 212)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

211. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the data protection centre in Portarlington, County Laois will be moved in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28422/19]

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Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

212. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the long-term plans for the data protection centre in Portarlington, County Laois; when new signage will replace the old signage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28423/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 211 and 212 together.

As I advised the Deputy in February 2019, there are no plans to relocate the Data Protection Commission's office located at Station Road, Portarlington, Co. Laois. I am advised that there are 29 staff members working at its Portarlington office across a number of teams (e.g. complaint-handling, investigations, etc.,) and they make a valuable contribution to the statutory functions and role of the Data Protection Commission. As the Deputy will be aware, the Data Protection Commission also has an office in Dublin.

Following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner became the Data Protection Commission and I understand, as a result, a process commenced to make the necessary signage and related changes to its corporate identity. In addition to new signage which has recently been added to the entrance of the Portarlington office, the Office of Public Works has advised that the painting of the surrounding woodwork and walls is due to be carried out during July 2019.

Data Protection

Questions (213)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

213. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a person applies for a job at the data protection office in Portarlington, County Laois will be assigned to just that office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28424/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Vacancies for the Data Protection Commission office in Portarlington are filled at the requisite grade from the Laois panel held by the Public Appointments Service (PAS).

From time to time competitions for specific positions within the Data Protection Commission are run via PAS.  In such instances, the competition notifications clearly state whether the position will be in the Dublin office or in the Laois office.

Closed-Circuit Television Systems Provision

Questions (214)

John McGuinness

Question:

214. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delays in granting local communities (details supplied) permission to provide CCTV in circumstances in which the communities have agreement with local councils to act as data controller and the equipment is housed in a local Garda station; if it his Department or the Garda Commissioner that now needs to grant approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28448/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

CCTV systems installed for the purposes of crime prevention and as aids to policing in areas to which the general public routinely have access fall into two distinct but complementary categories, namely Garda CCTV systems and community-based CCTV systems.  Community CCTV is governed by section 38(3)(c) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Garda Síochána (CCTV) Order 2006 (SI No 289 of 2006). This legal framework requires that any proposed community CCTV scheme must:

- be approved by the local Joint Policing Committee,

- have the prior support of the relevant local authority, which must also act as data controller, and

- have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner.

This is the legal basis for all community CCTV schemes, regardless of how they are funded. 

My Department administers a grant aid scheme which can provide financial assistance to groups intending to establish a community-based CCTV system in their local areas. Eligible groups, including community groups and local authorities, can apply for grant-aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum total of €40,000.  I would emphasise that grant funding can be considered only for proposed CCTV schemes which have obtained the necessary statutory approvals, as set out above.

I can confirm that my Department has to date not received any application for funding for community CCTV in the area referred to by the Deputy.

I am keen to ensure that all interested groups, in both rural and urban areas, have the opportunity to take advantage of the availability of the grant aid scheme.  If the Deputy is aware of groups wishing to avail of the scheme, further details are available to download from my Department's website - www.justice.ie and support and guidance is available to help interested groups through a dedicated email address communitycctv@justice.ie.

Garda Data

Questions (215)

Martin Ferris

Question:

215. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in the Kerry Garda division trained as divisional asset profilers as of 31 December 2017, 31 December 2018 and 7 June 2019, in tabular form. [28494/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for managing An Garda Síochána including matters relating to personnel.

Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

The Criminal Assets Bureau is a national multi-disciplinary agency specialising in targeting of the proceeds of crime. The Bureau draws together the necessary expertise from a number of Departments and agencies.

The Bureau maintains a presence in each of the Garda Divisions through the operation of the Divisional Assets Profiler Programme. Under this Programme, asset profilers are providing a criminal asset profiling service across the Garda Divisions in relation to persons or suspects operating within the area, with particular reference to those involved in serious and organised crime. The Bureau utilises the local knowledge supplied to it by the asset profilers, which enables it to target the proceeds of crime in local communities. A number of legislative measures have been introduced to tackle gang-related and associated crime, including the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2016, which provides additional powers for Gardaí; in particular, powers to allow for the immediate seizure of assets suspected of being the proceeds of crime to prevent them being disposed of.  

The following table represents the number of criminal asset profilers within the Kerry Division:

Members of An Garda Síochána Trained as Criminal Asset Profilers –   Kerry Division

Total Number Trained up to 31st December 2017 – 8

Total Number Trained up to 31st December 2018 – 9

Total Number Trained up to 2nd July   2019 – 9

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,800 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. This and on-going recruitment will clearly provide significant additional policing hours throughout the country, both in terms of the increase in new Gardaí and the redeployment of Gardaí to frontline policing duties due to civilianisation of their current roles. These new resources coming on stream have allowed the Commissioner to allocate additional resources to the specialist bureaus that comprise Garda Special Crime Operations, including the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

Private Security Industry Regulation

Questions (216)

Martin Ferris

Question:

216. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to update the Private Security Services Act 2004. [28495/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Private Security Services Act, 2004 (as amended) provides the legal basis for the regulation and licensing of sectors of the private security industry in Ireland.  The Private Security Authority (PSA), established under the Private Security Services Act 2004, is the regulatory body with responsibility for regulating and licensing the private security industry. The Authority is a statutorily independent body operating under the aegis of my Department.

The 2004 Act was amended in 2011 by means of amendments to the Civil Law (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act 2011. These amendments strengthened certain financial, licensing and enforcement functions of the Authority and came about following lessons learned by the Authority from its operations since licensing commenced.

In April 2019, I secured Government approval to bring the regulation of private security personnel, employed to assist in enforcing court orders, within the remit of the Private Security Authority. The proposals for this measure and related matters are contained in the report of an Interdepartmental Working Group Report which was published on my Department’s website on 9 April, 2019. My Department is working with the Office of the Attorney General to bring forward the necessary legislative provisions as soon as possible.

The 2004 Act is kept under review with a view to bringing forward any further changes where  necessary.

Prison Staff

Questions (217)

Willie Penrose

Question:

217. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the estimated cost in a full year if 120 additional prison officers were recruited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28605/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that the full year cost of employing 120 new Recruit Prison Officers is €5.6m. However given that recruitment is staggered over the course of the year the actual cost would be somewhat less than this figure, depending on the varying start dates of new recruits. 

The recruitment of Recruit Prison Officers by the Irish Prison Service has been ongoing since 2017 and has regard to such factors as service needs and retirement levels. It is anticipated that recruitment will be necessary over the coming years in order for the Irish Prison Service to have sufficient numbers of Prison Officers to provide safe and secure custody for those in our care. 

There were 179 new recruits to the Prison Service in 2018. To date this year 68 new recruits have completed their initial training with a further 48 are currently undergoing their initial training. In addition, the Prison Service hope to recruit circa 96 recruits before the end of 2019. This recruitment will assist the Prison Service to keep pace with retirements from the Service.

The known retirements for all prison grades as of 1st July 2019 is 45 which includes 8 compulsory retirements.  It should be noted that 389 prison grade staff will be eligible to retire, but are not required to do so, in 2019.

Industrial Relations

Questions (218)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

218. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when a hearing will be held in the Labour Court in relation to an unfair dismissals case (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28395/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Labour Court is an independent statutory office under the aegis of my Department. The Court was established under the Industrial Relations Act, 1946. Its functions have been altered and extended by subsequent legislation, including, most recently, the Workplace Relations Act 2015. Under the 2015 Act, the Labour Court assumed the role of sole appellate body in disputes under employment rights legislation. 

The Labour Court operates as an independent adjudicative body in carrying out its statutory function and as such it is not appropriate for me to comment on the detail of an individual case which may be before the Labour Court.  Any party wishing to enquire about the status of a particular case is asked to contact the Labour Court directly at info@labourcourt.ie or telephone +353 1 613 6666.

Work Permits Applications

Questions (219)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

219. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the reason the review of a critical skills employment permit application by a person (details supplied) has been pending since March 2019 in view of the fact that the website of her Department indicates that it is processing review applications received on 14 June 2019; when a decision can be expected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28399/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that an application for a Critical Skills Employment Permit in respect of the named individual was received on 14 December 2018.  On 8 March 2019, this application was refused because:

- At the time of application the named individual was in the State without current immigration permission as it had been revoked by the Minister for Justice and Equality on 12 December 2018; and

- required documentation had not been submitted.

In addition to being informed of the decision to refuse this application, the applicant was also informed that they could request a review of this decision.

My officials inform me that on 25 March 2019, a request for a review of this decision was received.  On 1 July 2019, following due consideration of the information submitted, the Reviewing Officer confirmed the decision to refuse the application as the named individual's immigration permission had been revoked by the Minister for Justice and Equality at the time of application.